People have lived and worked in the Brecon Beacons for nearly 8000 years. With each passing century, different communities have left their mark on the landscape. Together, our monuments, settlements, churches, castles, canals, industrial sites and museums speak of times gone by.
Today, the story continues. Our hills, lakes, caves, forests and waterfalls are fascinating to explore, and there’s much to discover in our characterful towns and villages. Why not dive in?
This magnificent eleventh century cathedral is most often visited for its beautiful choir, vaulting and stained glass windows depicting Welsh saints.
Brecon Cathedral houses the largest Norman font in Britain and the regimental chapel of the South Wales Borderers, who won renown in the Zulu War. The cathedral also contains a rare Breeches Bible. The sixteenth century tithe barn is now a Heritage Centre with reconstructions, audio-visual displays and a craft shop. There is an excellent restaurant and tea room in the cathedral grounds and an outstanding programme of musical events. Pilgrims Tea Rooms and Restaurant (tel 01874 610610, www.pilgrims-tearooms.co.uk), alongside the Heritage Centre in the Cathedral Close, uses locally sourced ingredients. More here.
The village of Tretower boasts a fine 13th century circular keep and one of the finest late medieval houses in Wales. Together they make up a property which for over 900 years has been altered and adapted to keep up with style and the tastes of the time. Find out more about the history of the court here.
Abergavenny Castle and Museum
The castle is located just a short walk from the main shopping area of Abergavenny with ample car parking close by. Enough of the castle remains to imagine that it must have been a formidable fortress.
The restored early 19th century hunting lodge built on the original motte, houses Abergavenny Museum which has an interesting collection of artefacts, a Victorian Welsh farmhouse kitchen, a saddler’s workshop among other displays. The museum hosts a number of exhibitions throughout the year, and has quizzes and workshops for children. Info here.
Pen-y-Crug Iron Age Hillfort
Maen Llia Standing Stone
OS grid reference SN924191
Standing just 60m off the minor road between the Senni valley and Ystradfellte, this impressive stone is relatively easy to visit.
Made from a massive sandstone block which stands 3.7m high, the task of moving and erecting it must have been a huge challenge, especially as it is likely that a quarter to a third of the whole stone is below ground. On a clear day it can be seen from quite some distance down the Llia valley suggesting that it may have been important as a territorial marker. Standing at an altitude of 573m it is also thought to be the highest standing stone in South Wales.
St Martins Church, Cwmyoy
St Martin’s in Cwmyoy, near Abergavenny, is a pretty little crooked church with a leaning spire.
The church of St Martin is unique, no part of it being square or at right angles with any other part. This is the result of being built on ground where subsidence has occurred in debris left by glaciation of the valley. Above the church, on the skyline, is a great gash on the side of the mountain caused by a landslide and it is this feature which gives the church and village its name Cwmyoy, sometimes spelt Cwm Iou or Cwm Iau, the valley of the yoke.
Local tradition says the landslide was caused by a terrible earthquake during Christ’s crucifixion, when there was darkness over the whole land and, according to St Matthew’s gospel, the veil of the temple was torn in two. St Martin’s dates back to the Middle Ages and contains a medieval cross, thought to have been one of the crosses of the Pilgrims’ Way to St David’s. It is situated on The Cistercian Way, a long distance walk into the heart of Wales.
The Tithe Barn, Abergavenny
Father Ignatius eventually died and was buried in his church, but the building soon became neglected, and today is open to the skies. There is a pilgrimage held annually in August (usually on the Saturday of the August Bank Holiday weekend) from Llanthony to Capel-y-Ffin. Part of the monastery is now a private residence and it is here that Eric Gill, the sculptor and typeface designer, lived with his family. It is possible to visit the remains of the church and a small chapel made in the domestic buildings in Gill’s time. More here.
These are just a handful of the many historic sites you can visit in the Brecon Beacons. Find more here.
Find out more about the history of the Brecon Beacons National Park here.